Simmons Leadership Conference to Go Virtual for the First Time in 41 Years

Simmons University today announced that the preeminent Simmons Leadership Conference will go virtual for the first time in its continuous 41-year history.

The virtual conference takes place on April 16 and focuses on the theme of “Defining Power.” Headlining the event are powerful women leaders, including tennis champion, activist and entrepreneur Serena Williams; media pioneer and TEDWomen editorial director Pat Mitchell; Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw; and economist and author Dambisa Moyo.

“We’re proud to announce that the Simmons Leadership Conference will go virtual for the first time in its history, and it’s appropriate that this year’s theme is ‘defining power’ — particularly at a time when so many individuals are displaying such strength and courage during this difficult time,” said Susan Brady, CEO of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership. “All those working to innovate and bring this event online in under four weeks — including the speakers, sponsors, partners and Simmons staff — are doing so out of a strong commitment to inclusion and celebration of the power of women.”

The Simmons Leadership Conference is the longest-running leadership forum in the nation and regularly draws more than 3,000 attendees from across the globe to Boston. The 2020 sold-old virtual event will feature about 5,000 participants. Take an inside look at the team working to bring this event online.

“With all of the uncertainty in the world, we feel it’s more important than ever to showcase women who are leading the way and showing exceptional strength,” said Helen G. Drinan, president of Simmons University. “The mission of Simmons University is to educate the next generation of leaders through a combination of intellectual exploration and professional preparation. The conference embodies the very best of this mission and we’re pleased to feature these prominent women thought leaders.”

The Simmons Leadership Conference will broadcast live from a virtual main stage. Powered by Cisco and Vbrick, the virtual main stage offers participants the opportunity to be inspired by listening to panel discussions, engaging in moderated question and answer sessions, and participating in live polling. The April 16 conference kicks off at 9 a.m. with welcoming remarks, followed by keynote addresses, signature sessions and business panels.

In addition, attendees can participate in virtual networking at the Connection Center — an online experience that allows participants to chat with other attendees, discuss specific topics of interest and to learn more about partners and sponsors. The SimmonsLEADS mobile app will serve as an interactive program guide, with resources and information about the conference experience that are designed to energize participants’ personal and professional lives. Learn more about the virtual experience and the full program schedule.

With all of the uncertainty in the world, we feel it’s more important than ever to showcase women who are leading the way and showing exceptional strength.

The conference is an offering of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership, which is an emerging authority on the intersection of leadership, equity and inclusion — with an emphasis on achieving gender parity in organizational leadership and helping inspire women to realize their full leadership potential.

Notable speakers at past Simmons Leadership Conferences have included Madeleine Albright, Christiane Amanpour, Maya Angelou, the late Benazir Bhutto, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Geena Davis, Viola Davis, Arianna Huffington, Billie Jean King, Sallie Krawcheck, Toni Morrison, Queen Noor, former First Lady Michelle Obama, Jehan Sadat and Oprah Winfrey.

Notable 2020 Speakers, Panelists and Moderators

Widely regarded as one of the top athletes of all time, tennis powerhouse Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, twice held four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (a feat now known as the Serena Slam), and ranked as the number-one female player in the world for 319 consecutive weeks. An activist-entrepreneur, Williams has used her celebrity stature and business acumen to fight fiercely for gender equity, particularly for women of color.

For more than 40 years, Sonia Manzano inspired, educated and delighted children and families as Maria on Sesame Street. Named by Latina magazine as one of the 25 Greatest Latino Role Models, she broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters featured on national television. She won 15 Emmys as part of the show’s writing team, and was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 2016. As captivating on the stage as on the small screen, Manzano has appeared in several critically acclaimed theater productions.

Muffet McGraw, a superstar of women’s basketball, has served as head coach of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish team for more than 30 years. She has compiled an NCAA Division I record of more than 900 wins, nine Final Fours and multiple national championships — a record matched by only four other coaches. McGraw is also among the most prominent voices for women in college athletics, speaking out forcefully against systemic sexism and racial inequity in sports as well as in other institutions.

Pioneering media executive Pat Mitchell has created a body of award-winning work both in front of the camera as a news reporter and anchor, White House correspondent and talk show host, and behind the camera as a producer of documentaries and series. She became the first woman to own, produce and host a national talk show, as well as the first woman president and CEO of PBS, CNN Productions and The Paley Center for Media. Currently, Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen and chairs the Sundance Institute and the Women’s Media Center.

International economist Dambisa Moyo is a pre-eminent thought leader and advisor to key decision makers on macroeconomics, geopolitics, technology and millennial trends. Named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world, she is known for her balance of contrarian thinking and measured judgment and her unique perspective on the interplay of business and the global economy. The author of several New York Times bestsellers, Moyo’s latest work is Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth and How to Fix It.

At age 13, human rights advocate Yeonmi Park and her mother escaped from the deprivations of North Korea by crossing a frozen river into China. As Park relates in her harrowing memoir, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, this was just the beginning of a series of ordeals that involved sex traffickers, family separation and more. Eventually making her way to the U.S., Park has made it her mission to open the world’s eyes not only to the horrors of Kim Jong-Un’s regime, but also to the enslavement of women refugees in China.

Emmy award-winning journalist Joyce Kulhawik and Susan MacKenty Brady, CEO of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership, will serve as the conference co-hosts.

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